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Column: Coatesville’s defense the perfect complement to high-powered offense

 

CALN — Late in the third quarter the Pennsbury crowd roared after Falcons’ quarterback Zach Demarchis connected with David Burke for a seven-yard gain.

It was a half Bronx cheer, half “now let’s get going” kind of eruption.

Pennsbury had finally engineered its first first down of the game with three minutes left in the second quarter. The Falcons were looking to gain some momentum heading into the half, trailing 21-0 to a Red Raiders offense that was good but not great, to their very high standards.

The very next play Zach Hillard tracked Demarchis down for a three-yard loss, but Pennsbury rattled off another pair of first downs and had it at the Coatesville 29.

Coatesville’s Aaron Young tackles Pennsbury’s Nasan Robbins for a loss. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

With 19 seconds to go in the half, the game was decided, as Coatesville junior Aaron Young caught an errant pass at the eight, made a couple Falcons miss and sprinted 92 yards for the defensive score. Had Coatesville’s offense not scored all night, that would’ve been plenty, as the Red Raiders rolled to their third district final in six seasons.

“We hoped to kind of play four to score and milk the clock a little,” Pennsbury coach Dan McShane said. “We wanted to keep their offense off the field, but their defense was doing their thing and kept getting our defense back out there. When they can spread the field with all those kids in space, we were really stretched thin.”

Coatesville’s defense was the perfect complement to its high-powered offense, and on a cold November night against a big, physical Suburban One team, it was absolutely needed.

Ricky Ortega scored on Coatesville’s opening drive, but a 57-yard punt by Pennsbury set the Red Raiders up with the ball at their own one. Ortega was able to flip the field, but through the first quarter Pennsbury was a play away from making it a game.

The only times all year Coatesville has been deterred was against a physical Cumberland Valley team in week two and a punishing Downingtown East team in week nine. If there’s a blueprint to stop this explosive Coatesville team, it’s to control the ball, limit the big plays and hope the pressure of a tight game creates mistakes.

Coatesville’s defense would not allow that, Friday night. In the first half the Red Raiders forced three-and-outs on Pennsbury’s first four drives, and the Falcons were 1-for-7 against the Coatesville starters on third downs.

“You can definitely tell because they start getting more sluggish,” Coatesville defensive lineman Alex Raimondo said of the effect of those three-and-outs. “They start arguing with each other and that only benefits us. It helps us play our game.”

Ortega was his typical, masterful self again, running for 128 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 182 and two more scores, and garnering huge praise from McShane.

“Usually running quarterbacks aren’t good throwers,” McShane said. “(Ortega) is the whole package.”

When Coatesville’s offense eventually got rolling full speed, the defense only amplified the avalanche.

“It completely changes the dynamic of the game,” Coatesville cornerback Avery Young said. “If we go out there and get stops, you can tell they get down and it picks us up. Football is about game flow and it works so much better when you can go stop, score, stop.”

With the game all but out of reach, both units came out of halftime ready to stomp on the proverbial neck. The defense forced a punt, and in two plays the offense went 55 yards for the score, starting the running clock due to the mercy rule.

Coatesville’s Avery Young picks off a pass in the third quarter. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Pennsbury responded, driving all the way to the Coatesville eight when Avery Young jumped a route at the one and returning it 99 yards, outdoing his little brother, only to have the return brought back due to a penalty.

Two plays later, Ortega hit a wide open Dapree Bryant for a 68-yard score.

“This brotherhood, when we see one of our brothers on offense do something, we’re like, ‘we gotta do something, we gotta do better,’” Avery Young said. “They pick us up and we pick them up and we meet in the middle and make plays.”

Coatesville is an astounding plus-400 in point differential, and that is a very scary statistic no matter which side of the ball you’re looking at it.

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